And the matching spoon rest! — view on Instagram https://ift.tt/3o2BPzO
A sweet little salt cellar commission for @amiehackimer 🥰 — view on Instagram https://ift.tt/3oZVdig
I’ve been cranking out a bunch of yo-yo videos lately. Like this short tutorial for Ehrich’s Tower.
It’s been fun seeing strangers on Instagram doing Ehrich’s Tower after the tutorial went live.
I also shared a new episode of PopCast that talks about Redirects. There seems to be a lot of demand for modern responsive tutorials like this, which is nice to know.
And one more short little concept that I’m really proud of is Orbital Decay. It’s a cool string rejection that I love to throw into combos.
Here’s a slow mo clip of Orbital Decay:
The thing of a swipe is hard and intense. Like a fist to an unsuspecting jaw.
“He took a swipe at George during breakfast.”
Other swipes, though invisible, smart all the same. Like a complaint to an unsuspecting host.
“He took a swipe at George’s technique for preparing eggs.”
But swipe feels most familiar as a verb:
“Smeared with runny egg, George feebly swiped the air.”
Both to noses and to egos, swipe is the action delivering those blows.
Swipe also means to steal. From larceny of property (“I swiped this plate from George’s China hutch.”) to loans ontological (“I’m totally swiping George’s look.”), swiping is as much taking as it is delivering.
In the world of advertising, a swipe file is a collection of other folks’ ideas used for “inspiration.” In comic books, a swipe is an uncredited homage to another artist’s cover. Unlike the swipe at George’s hospitality, a comic book swipe is meant as a compliment, though some consider it a blow all the same.
In the world of hip hop, a swipe is a breakdance move in which a twisted torso beckons the lower half to follow.
Even as a noun, this swipe is packed with action. I’ll never attempt it.
You’ll sooner find me swiping a credit card. In the days of yore, one imprinted such cards against carbon paper; today you might insert or tap it. But swipe feels like the favorite. We don’t talk about cash in these physical terms. It’s something you spend—unless of course, somebody’s swiped it from you.
The most modern swipe requires the handheld computer in your pocket. Thanks to capacitive glass, you can engage in swipe’s most existential format: the swipe left. It is perhaps swipe’s most painful articulation and ironically one felt not at all.
No words, no fists, no twists, no charge: the most efficient swipe is the press of a finger eradicating the possibility of love.
Despite the mess that was 2020, I was fairly productive on the game design front. I published a total of 8 games as well as an online game design platform! Here’s a quick overview of the year’s releases and activities.
Premise is a trio of collaborative storytelling games focused on Setting, Character, and Plot – and you can play them independently or chain them together to explore a world in depth. Each sub-game has it’s own template and play consists of simultaneously filling out parts of the templates, passing the sheets, and building on each other’s ideas.
I started working on Premise ages ago but it was frequently pushed to the backburner as I worked on more urgent projects. I published it in February and I’m very happy with how the final version turned out! I ended up doing very little marketing or promotion for Premise (a frequent problem for Diegetic Games) so I might give it another push this year.
You can buy Premise on Itch.io – there’s a print-at-home version as well as templates to play online via Google Slides.
In September, I released Dawn of the Monster Invasion, a game where players create a spoof of monster movies though a series of speeches + Q&A. It was my submission to Golden Cobra and it won an award! I created a web app for it so folks could play over video chat and then extended the app to be a platform any designer could use – more on that in a moment. The game + app platform won the award for “Best New Tool” which was nice honor.
In October, I launched Story Synth as a web platform that helps designers quickly create and share prompt-driven storytelling games. Designing is as easy as adding card content to a Google Sheet and then pasting that sheet url into the website. From there, you can create new game sessions and share them with friends and playtesters online.
Story Synth supports a handful of game formats. The most popular allows randomly drawing prompts from a deck (or decks), which is great for games inspired by For the Queen or The Quiet Year. Other formats support timer-based prompts, random prompt generation, phased based play, and more.
I’m continuing to evolve the platform and am loving the development process. There are already a handful of designers creating games on the platform and I’m hoping to see plenty more games on it soon!
You can learn more about creating games via the documentation pages but please reach out if you have any questions!
In December I released Around the Realm, a light storytelling game where players create the story of two companions racing around a fantasy realm. It’s inspired by Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days and leads to quick, fun adventures. You can play it online here (via Story Synth).
In December, I also designed a submission for the Post-Work City Project called Post-Work Paradise. In Post-work Paradise, you see randomly generated residents of a city, in a world where automation has rendered traditional work unnecessary. Players take turns answering questions about these generated citizens and their lives.
I was honored to hear that my submission was one of seven that were accepted to be featured in the Post-Work City gallery. I also participated in a panel where I got to talk about the game and my design choices.
I was also busy on the “serious games” front. Last year I designed and ran:
I’m not positive what 2021 will have in store. I anticipate spending a lot of time on Story Synth – adding new features and making example games.
I’d also love to publish my map making game ‘Make Haste’ but we’ll see how I prioritize it.
I’ll likely also be busy with plenty of interesting “serious games” and will share those details, too.
Originally posted on Twitter, lightly edited for this post.
I’ve been playing around with the new Web Monetization Protocol (WMP) and it’s been super fun and interesting. Here’s a quick overview of WMP and my experience adding it to my sites.
Web Monetization Protocol enables the flow of payments from a user to a website via their web browser. For instance, a user can direct a flow of micropayments (fractions of cents) to sites based on how much time is spent on each page – there’s no friction or fees involved.
On the user / browser side, I’ve been testing it out with @Coil right now – I spend $5 per month and 100% of it gets distributed to the websites I visit (if they have WMP enabled).
As site, you can enable WMP just one line of code – super easy. The current user base of folks paying with WMP is tiny but this is an exciting experiment that enables new ways for creators to earn revenue. Websites like Techdirt, Wired, and Imgur are experimenting with WMP and some are removing ads for visitors that use WMP.
I just added WMP to my games design platform, Story Synth, as well as to my blog and personal website.
Setting up WMP for Story Synth was super easy. I created a free wallet with @UpholdInc and then added the wallet address into the header of the website with one short line of code:
I tested it with my Chrome Coil extension and quickly started receiving a trickle of payments. Granted, they were payments from myself, to myself – but still pretty cool!
It reminds me of playing around with bitcoin in 2010 when the buzz was about impact not price speculation.
My real interest isn’t making money for Story Synth – it’s creating new revenue streams for game designers. With just a small tweak, I made it so that designers can share their own WMP wallet with Story Synth and it will auto become the destination when folks play their games
Designers add their wallet w/ an option row in their game’s Google Sheet, along with all their other game data
If they want, they can set a rev share with Story Synth (me). The default is Story Synth gets a 20% cut but they can change it to any % they want (including 0%).
Side note - there isn’t a built-in way to do rev share yet so I dropped in the Probabilistic Revenue Sharing code which sets the wallet address randomly based on the defined revShare percent.
I don’t expect anyone to earn substantial revenue anytime soon but WMP a super fun thing to experiment with. It felt good to play with a new web protocol, especially one that avoids banks and fees and sends cash directly to indie creators.Originally posted on Twitter, lightly edited for this post.
I’ve written about the wonderful Pac-Man Peysa that Christine made for my birthday a few years ago and now I wanted to share the excellent sweater she just finished for herself. It’s a Romulan sweater based off of the “Winter Event” outfit in Star Trek Online.
A big one that has bothered me is the desire to call Donald Trump deranged and unhinged (though I will agree that he is dangerous). While Nancy Pelosi isn’t necessarily a good barometer for doing and saying thoughtful things, what she says here is a popular sentiment that’s frequently and casually tossed around.
Rather than “insane” or “crazy”, I believe that Donald Trump and his ilk are incredibly clear-minded and sane about the destruction they are sowing. This is the manifestation of white supremacy gone unchallenged and run amok. This is what he was promising during every moment of his two campaigns, and also in each and every one of his actions, choices, and words in office.
I find the diagnoses of armchair psychologists frustrating as it obscures what is really at work here (and is also stigmatizing of those struggling with mental illness).
So, I returned to a striking passage from Kiese Laymon where he describes the dynamics of abuse and power at play in our current moment in a way that is profoundly more true, interesting, and useful.
Here’s what I know to be true:
Tate Reeves and most of these white Mississippians are no more regionalists, or lovers of Mississippi and the deep south, than Donald Trump is a patriot and lover of the United States of America. They are not haunted by phantoms. They are dedicated ghouls, spirit-repellent patriarchs who use each other and a muddled understanding of Jesus Christ to ensure the suffering of the most vulnerable. Abusive power tastes, touches, smells, sounds, and feels really good to gobblers of grace. They are not 19-year-old boys trying to decide between right and wrong; they are grown men who have chosen to model meanness for their posterity. They will torture and humiliate everyone close to them to maintain the power to abuse. They will never ever say or mean, I am sorry for making living harder than it needs to be. I am sorry for feeding off your humiliation. I am sorry for never confessing my actual sins to the world. I am sorry that your life means less to me than my ego. They will never say, I am sorry. They will only remind Americans and southerners foolish enough to listen that it all could be so much worse.
For the full piece: Mississippi: A Poem, in Days
and to add some levity to my thoughts this week, and speaking of armchair psychologists, here’s an armchair I built for my teeny craft model home (a work in progress, more on this later):
P.S. Kiese Laymon published a new book of essays this past fall, if you’re interested in reclaiming your time and mind from white supremacists: How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America
A thing that has survived from the past
I am tired and this isn’t my bed. This isn’t my head. I am a yawn wrapped in skin. I am dead numb defiant to everything but that sound is keeping me awake. It is the sound of the radio.
I sing every song known to man and every dirge known only to women. I frequent fine altars and coarse temples. My priest serves a sermon of soup and ladles hot acid homily into my eyelids Amen. I drink the Wisdom and it guides me to the wildness. I have committed every crime. I have attempted every faux pas. I have mispronounced every word with thick turgid lips. I am the fog-sharp knife stuck in your stomach. I am the growl of your stomach’s stomach. I am unignorable.
I was frozen in fear. I am thawed by anger. I now flow like a thickened stew of revenge and doubt. Tonight we smoke them out. I am Midas and his touch and a heap of dead gold. I am a fascist in the sheets and a follower in the streets; I don’t understand anything in between. Science calls it a “top sheet.” I kick it with disgust to the foot of your bed.
I am a birthday cake without the candles or song. And I take offense to that, even thought I said it. My reflex is self-instinct and hasty manifestos in the fourth person. That’s You squared. I am the bold brusque confusion of an autocorrected thought. I’m a clap-back of a clap-back. I am an all caps missive published at 4am.
I am virtuous and true. I am a smiling police officer turning off his body-cam. I am a mid-divorce judge about to change your life. I am a teacher in a chalk-stained blouse. I am the body of a slain black teenager. I am the gum-smacking kid who eats attention for breakfast and the gun-toting kid who chooses vengeance for dessert. I am the gestapo and the French Revolution. I am the armies at sunrise and the sleeping civilians at sunset. I am brooding, duplicitous, wicked, and able. I am 90 million coughing. I am 2 million dead.
I’m ready for a few kind of washing machine. I’m overdue for a vanilla latte. I’m saving up for a new kind of slime. I’m a sea of glass faces, waiting for the van to come. I’m a hot piece of iron, coal fired, and flattened into your skull.
And I’m going to crush it into pieces.
Because I am everything you ever wanted to know. I am an open box. You are a sound-bite glutton and I am the sound of the radio.
The events of the last week have been among the most momentous of my life. While we remain solidly in the period where the ultimate consequences of the assault on the US Capital by insurrectionist Trump supporters and the apparent enablement of these domestic terrorists by Trump himself are impossible to determine, I am perhaps foolishly optimistic that the long incubation period of Trumpism has given us the time to develop the memetic antibodies that will be needed to fight back against the rising tide of fascistic nationalist populism domestically and around the world.
It feels, at the end of this interminable week, like the cultural and political paradigms of the United States may have changed forever. With scores of seditionists kicked off Twitter and Facebook - including their leader, the 45th President of the United States - it seems that social media giants may see the writing on the wall that in the future they will be held more accountable for the conversations that happen on their platforms. Ironically, Trump's dream of repealing Section 230 could be be more realistic than most imagine - as a society we seem to be moving toward treating social media giants more like the newspapers of the past - spaces for public discourse, yes, but liable for the conversations that happen in those spaces. It is deeply ironic that the result of this increased liability would be the near-universal refusal of those platforms to publish the kind of hateful content that has become Trump's signature style.
My personal commitment in this moment - beyond doubling down on my anti-racist organizing and continuing to focus on changing the technological systems that aided and abedded on of the most dangerous incidents in US history - is to take it as an opportunity to hone and solidify a regular writing practice. I hope to keep a clearer log of my thoughts and philosophical explorations going forward so that I can reflect on this new era in a more considered way in the future.
Last week, amid the chaos and worry, I managed to write "Morning Papers" on 3 of 5 week days, and this week I hope to make all 5. I hope to use this daily writing practice to solidify a weekly (at least!) publishing practice, a habit I hope to maintain for the rest of my life and will trace its beginning to the publishing of this very post. I plan to use this space for anything I find interesting - I apologize, dear reader, that I do not have any intention of using this space to write to satisfy the needs of others - while I do hope some of what I write here will prove helpful to my readers, my intentions for this practice are entirely rooted in providing a new space for meditation on and development of ideas I believe deserve deeper thought.
A few weeks ago, Mike Masnick and I ran a 4-hour workshop to explore positive futures involving transformational artificial intelligence. Afterwards, I wrote two Twitter threads covering the game contents and a behind the scenes of the facilitation patterns we used. Here’s a slightly edited version of those threads.
On December 17th, Mike Masnick and I had the pleasure of running a 4-hour workshop on Positive AI Economic Futures for the World Economic Forum and Berkeley’s Center for Human-compatible AI We’re thrilled with how it went – here’s an overview with details on the goals, exercises, and output.
We had ~90 attendees, including top economists, technologists, and sci-fi authors – they were awesome and brought a ton of creativity, energy, and expertise!
We ran 5 highly interactive and collaborative exercises to envision the world after transformational AI remade society. Each exercise was done in breakout groups of 4-6 participants. Here’s a quick dive into each one:
Exercise 1 focused on what will be newly abundant in the futures and what scarcities and consequences might ensue.
Exercise 2 had participants creating Metrics Dashboards to guide humanity and then discussing the tradeoffs and unexpected consequences of their chosen metrics. The groups had some great debates and critiques.
Exercise 3 had each group pick a final hurdle (economic, power / political, meaningfulness) for humanity to overcome. The groups then told the story of overcoming those hurdles through a series of news headlines.
Exercise 4 focused on the new essential institutions, participatory organizations, and social moments that might play a critical role in the future. We had groups do this both before and after a major earthquake.
Exercise 5, designed by Ruth Hickin, zoomed in to the individual level. Participants adopted future personas and held in-character discussions about difficult questions about their obligations to society and finding meaning in a post-work world.
We’re thrilled with how the event turned out and we’ll be sharing the output in the future. Also, keep an eye out for the reports and X-Prize competition next year.
Deep thanks to Caroline_Jeanmaire and Conor Sanchez for bringing us in and being great collaborators on the workshop design! Also thanks to the dozen facilitators who helped each group stay on track and create great visions of the future.
You can check out Mike’s thread for more details and highlights of the experience:
With 5 collaborative exercises and ~90 participants, this was one of our most ambitious workshops / activities so far. We’re thrilled with how it went and are excited to keep exploring the future through storytelling and worldbuilding games!
Yesterday I wrote about running an interactive ~90 person workshop on positive AI economic futures. Today I want to share some of the experience design patterns that Mike and I used to ensure that it was smooth and successful.
We were able to employ a bunch of techniques that we’ve been exploring over the past few years and hopefully you’ll find them interesting, especially if you want to run interactive events. This event was on Zoom but many of these patterns apply on any platform, or even offline.
I’ll start by talking about the overall event design and then shift to cover how we scaffolded and supported the exercises. The event was four hours, had ~90 participants, five exercises, and 5 speeches scattered throughout. A lot of moving parts!
Ahead of time, we created a detailed Run of Show doc that included down-to-the-minute timing and info related to different responsibilities. We also created a few specific roles to make sure things didn’t fall through the cracks.
The event was on Zoom so we had one person was responsible for managing breakout groups and making sure folks were in the right place (more on that in a bit).
We also had someone responsible for keeping track of the time and sending out broadcast messages to participants – letting them know what step they should be on and how much time they had left.
Other roles involved having one person responsible for pinning and unpinning the right speakers in the speaker view and one person responsible for coordinating with the other facilitators. This division of labor was key to making sure that critical things didn’t slip
Beyond the core team, we had over a dozen volunteers who were informal facilitators in the breakout rooms. We briefed them on the exercises in advance and answered any questions. Their main role was to model good behavior and keep their group on track.
These facilitators did a great job of ensuring that the exercises went smoothly for each group. They were also able to backchannel questions to us (via Slack) for quick resolution. It was a relief to us knowing that we had them embedded in each group.
Our breakout room manager was able to pre-assign the group facilitators to each of 14 breakout rooms. When it was time to start the exercise, they randomly assigned the rest of the participants to those rooms and they were off to the races.
For one exercise, we had each group do an activity on their own and then we paired groups up for critique. The breakout manager was able to quickly drag folks from one room into another and it all went smoothly. This was a cool interaction pattern and provoked great discussions.
The groups themselves were 4-6 participants. We’ve found that to be optimal for group collaboration and co-creation – any more is unwieldy and any less is fragile to folks dropping out or being shy.
Halfway through the event we reshuffled the breakout groups. This brought an infusion of new ideas and energy; plus, it enabled participants to meet more people throughout the day.
Reshuffling groups also made the event more friendly to having participants drop in and out throughout the day. Groups were rebalanced and latecomers didn’t have to get up to speed on the two hours of previous work.
To make the event resilient to delays, we built in “crumple zones” – parts of the schedule that we could shrink or skip if we were running late. Ex: we could easily trim down or remove post-exercise recaps where we shared different teams outputs.
We also scheduled a break in the middle that could be 10-20min depending on how much time we needed back. The first exercise started 10 minutes late but we were able to catch back up to schedule by the mid-way point. We even ended the event 10 minutes early!
The break was also crucial given that the event was 4-hours long – we wanted to give folks some time off-camera to stretch, grab a snack, etc. We immediately followed the break with two short talks; folks wouldn’t miss any exercises if they were running late or still eating.
The workshop consisted of five exercises that explored possible, positive futures focused on AI and economics. The exercises started high level and abstract, and then each exercise zoomed in: Humanity -> Institutions -> Individual POV
This format helped ease folks into collaborating and worldbuilding. Each exercise was able to build on the context created earlier in the day.
All of the collaboration happened in Google Slides. We gave each breakout group a link to their own slide deck which contained instructions, examples, inspiration, and templates for them to fill out.
Google Slides was a great fit as it allowed multiple participants to edit at once (great for wordsmithing). As facilitators, we could see each groups progress in realtime and decide when to bring the groups back to the main room.
Even better, having the output in Slides allowed us to copy finished templates from the group decks to our main deck. We then shared different groups’ creations after each exercise.
Another benefit to having groups work in Slides is that we could easily capture their outputs for the team to analyze later. That’s critical for this initiative as the exercises will go on to inform reports and be used as inspiration for a film competition.
Before each exercise, we walked everyone through the instructions and an example. We included all of that in the group slide decks for easy reference when the groups were in their breakout rooms.
We also included slides with extra inspirations and advice for the exercises. We like giving participants the seeds of ideas to steer them in the right direction. They’ll almost always go well beyond those inspirations and create something interesting and novel.
This ended up being a long thread but I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about some of the design patterns we used to make the event run smoothly and to support the collaboration we wanted to see.
Hopefully we’ll be designing, running, and sharing plenty more events like this – reach out if you’re interested!A few weeks ago, Mike Masnick and I ran a 4-hour workshop to explore positive futures involving transformational artificial intelligence. Afterwards, I wrote two Twitter threads covering the game contents and a behind the scenes of the facilitation patterns we used. Here’s a slightly edited version of those threads.
Christine and I feel quite lucky to have survived 2020 with our health and employment intact. Both of us were fortunate enough to be able to work from home and our employers have been very supportive and flexible. We’ve been looking for a new apartment for years with no luck, but with the huge drop in the housing market we were finally able to move out of our 500sqft apartment on Capp St. We love our new apartment in La Lengua, it’s beautiful, affordable, and over twice the size of our last place. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been for Christine and I to both be working from home on our small old place.
I released two albums this year plus a hand full of singles and a bonus instrumental album:
Waiting for an Earthquake is a chiptune album I’ve been working on for a few years and I’m so glad to finally have it released. It was written and performed on a classic Game Boy and it’s intended to be the last chiptune album I’ll ever release. I’ve also released an instrumental version.
Printer Not Printing is a great dubstep-esque track created with sample from a broken Epson printer. There’s a cool video for it too.
Thrift Store Scores is a return to my classic nerdcore rap stuff, like I used to make 10 years back. It’s fun and the beat is killer. Fun little fact, the beat was created with samples from an old muzac track that used to play at K-Marts. I found the music via The Internet Archive and found endless inspiration from these old K-Mart tapes. This beat in particular is one of my favorites from the K-Mart remixes.
Quarantined Beats (and Inside Voices) is probably my favorite thing I’ve made all year, and one of my favorite albums to date. It started off with trying to make one new beat a day at the beginning of quarantine, but soon I started writing lyrics and reaching out to friends to perform on tracks too. It ended up becoming a little timecapsule from May of 2020, one of the craziest and most historic months of my lifetime. The range of artists is pretty interesting too, with folks from all over the world contributing lyrics, vocals, and instrumentals. Speaking of instruments, I was able to find performers on Fiverr to add all sorts of instrumentation to my beats, like theremin, horns, trombone, saw, and much more. It all adds so much to this album that really makes me so happy with the final result. Who knew that working during a quarantine would actually enable me to work with so many musicians on one album? Mega Ran, int eighty, Beefy, Keiko, Cartoon Violence, Jonathan Mann (AKA songadayman), Kim Boekbinder, and many more folks are all on this album!
We also made a ton of great music videos from this album too:
I released two board games in 2020!
KnifeTank: The Shüffling launched on Kickstarter in January, shipped to backers in the middle of the pandemic, and just sold out a few weeks ago. I feel so happy to have fully sold out of my first game, but now it’s time to start thinking about what’s next for KnifeTank. I’m thinking about launching an expansion and 2nd printing of The Shüffling in March. The reaction from players has been so strong and positive that I’m just so happy to have finally shipped my first board game.http://knifetank.com/
Doc Pop’s One-Dimensional Chess is a chess variant played on a single row of 16 squares. It’s something I’ve been playtesting for years and finally released as a Creative Commons licensed print-and-play game. You can download it for free, print up the board, and play with friends or family. Don’t think of this as just a novelty though, it’s surprisingly strategic and full of depth.http://onedimensionalchess.com/
I took a few months off, but still managed to release a few good episodes of my PopCast Yo-Yo Vlog. This Buckets of Buckets episode was particularly nice and shot on our new back porch.
I released a new yo-yo with Rain City Skills called the Pop Art. It’s a modern responsive yo-yo designed primarily for freehand play and it really kicked off a new interest into that style of responsive counterweight play.
Just wanted to brag about this one tweet
A lot of us picked up new hobbies in 2020. For me, it was probably cooking. I did start cooking more in 2019, but 2020 really made home cooking more of my life. It was a way to save money while avoiding strangers, but it was also a way to help kill time. I really don’t enjoy killing, but when you are stuck at home 24/7, it’s nice to find some activities to keep you busy. Our new kitchen has been fantastic though. It’s so much easier to cook here than in our old apartment.
At the beginning of the pandemic I designed a handful of death-metal inspired phrases like “Cover Your Mouth” and “Maintain Social Distance”. These were sold on docpop.threadless.com with all of my proceeds going towards local businesses. Thanks to all the support, I was able to raise about $800 for local businesses like Bender’s Bar, Virgil’s, The Chapel, Tartine, and more.
With a few exceptions (during their renovations and the shelter in place), my friends and I have been hanging out Bender’s Bar and Grill every Monday night for the past 15 years or so. So when the pandemic hit, we decided to take our Monday night meeting online as a way to stay connected. These start around 9pm and folks tend to pop in and out as they please. It’s not the same as hangin out in person, but it sure has been nice to keep this tradition going in some way.Our friends all lean in close to get a good view of the tiny switches Jon was showing us.
It’s been a wild year. We love our new neighborhood and I can’t wait to be able to explore it more and hang out with friends again. In some ways, 2020 was an extremely productive year, but when you really look at it, most of this work was built on years and years of work that finally got released in 2020. I had been working on KnifeTank, 1D Chess, and Waiting For an Earthquake for many years and probably could have released them sooner. They weren’t a result of 2020, that just happens to be the year I finally pulled the trigger. In fact WFAE was actually recorded in 2019.
That being said, Quarantined Beats was absolutely a result of quarantine. It started off in the early days of San Francisco’s shelter-in-place order and the lyrics for all the songs were heavily inspired by our lives at the time. Like I said before, Quarantined Beats is my timecapsule from one of the craziest months in an already crazy year, and it is absolutely the thing that I’m most proud of doing all year.
It looks like I started on Instagram in May of 2015. I didn’t really get it, and spent the first couple of years using it as a photo dump for lil visual jokes and abandoning an account every time it hit greater than 100 followers (I didn’t want to get sucked into the fame and influencer trap, you see):
My very intermittent, non-addicted relationship with Instagram was completely upended in 2018 when I started Instagram Storying and simply could not stop. I basically had one long Instagram Story running from Fall 2018 - Summer 2020.
Apart from the semi-obvious reasons around enjoying sharing/processing/highlighting my life on a social media platform with friends, I initially got sucked into Stories because, unlike posts, viewers couldn’t see engagement metrics. It felt to me like I was free from the pressure to have a lot of likes or views or followers, and I could genuinely post whatever struck my fancy rather than what I hoped other people wanted.
But of course I was still living performatively and posting a curated image of my life, aestheticizing/highlighting everything everybody and their moms
literally (my mom):
After a very prolific couple of years on Instagram Stories however, it began to feel like I was furiously tap-dancing in an empty theater.
I argued to myself posting to Instagram Stories was *for me, and me alone*, and that I had built up a rose-colored glasses repository of images and videos highlighting the brief moments of my days that were fun, pretty, or notable. Giving myself an opportunity to reflect on experiences positively (when I’m a bit predisposed to negativity).
But something about Instagram stopped serving me this past summer. I kept on gaining followers from people I had only barely ever met and had no hopes of ever building a stronger relationship with. It felt like I was being kept tabs on by people who couldn’t have cared less about my existence. I began suspecting that a number of my followers were mindlessly tapping through several minutes’ worth of Instagram Stories from dozens of accounts in order to form an aggregate, average image of what they’re supposed to be staying in line with.
And I’m not really down with that anymore! If I want more intentional, rich connection, I have to put a bit more effort and intention into what I put into the world. If I don’t want to be misconstrued or misunderstood, I have to articulate myself more clearly. I’ve secretly known for awhile that I was using Instagram to project an image of authenticity, when in fact I was actually being emotionally obscuring:
Of course, there were a handful of people by whom I felt really loved and seen, and for whom I stayed on the platform for longer than I should have. Our relationships did actually flourish and we were able to stay decently in touch by consuming and reacting to each others’ content.
So in light of the fact that the processing and sharing I did on social media did in fact help me to nourish and maintain relationships, I’m now trying my hand at working through and sharing my experiences and observations with the power of the written word or maybe visual essay…and inviting near and dears along for the ride,
With just a few hours left in 2020, here’s a final update on our year. I’ll mostly focus on the last few months as I wrote a Mid-2020 Update in September.
Avital and I are healthy and happy, if a bit exhausted. We are super fortunate in that we can just hunker down and never leave the house (except for hikes). We’re also lucky in that all our family and close friends have also been cautious and stayed healthy – hopefully that continues!
We’ve mostly been busy with work but have found time to play storytelling games, play music together (we’re learning klezmer), and have plenty of zoom catch-ups and some patio hang-outs with friends (though never enough).
We recently spent a day hiking in Point Reyes, which was a safe and meaningful way to getting outside. Hopefully we’ll fit in more hiking this winter.
I spent over half the year working with Remotion, a video chat startup. I helped them launch a public beta, raise a series A, and prepare for scale. I left the company after a successful press push in October and they seem to be on good trajectory.
On the ‘serious games’ front – I co-designed (with Jason Morningstar) a game for UNICEF on the future of healthcare and adolescence. Also, Mike Masnick and I ran an updated version of our Election Threatcast game. I covered both of these in more depth in the mid-2020 update. Since then, Mike and I have designed and run two more serous games.
In November we ran Hindsight 2030, a game about exploring what unexpected trends might emerge in the next decade. It was a good mix of fun and insightful and, at under an hour of playtime, it was a great way to end the work week. You can read Mike’s writeup for more details. We’ll likely be designing and running more games in this style in 2021.
In December, Mike and I jumped in to design a four-hour workshop on positive AI economic futures for the World Economic Forum and the Center for Human-compatible Artificial Intelligence. We designed 5 short games / exercises that helped the participants (~90 economists, sci-fi authors, and technologists) create positive visions for a world where AI has rendered work obsolete. The event was a huge success and you can read lots more about it in two twitter threads: one on the content of the event and one on how we designed and facilitated it.
Avital’s company has had an amazing but intense year. They moved fast in the beginning of the pandemic and built an incredible set of virtual culinary experiences that have been a huge hit for corporate events. The last few months have been about scaling the team and processes and I’ve had fun jumping in to help them. Among other things, I’ve built no-code tooling and automation to enable them handle the massive volume of events and shipments, and to catch problems early on, before they blow up.
In my mid-year update, I mentioned two games I’ve published this year: Premise and Dawn of the Monster Invasion. I ended up open-sourcing the tech behind the latter as Story Synth, which then won a Golden Cobra award for Best New Tool.
Story Synth is a web platform that allows game designers to quickly create, test, and share storytelling games online. They make the game in a Google Sheet and then paste the link into Story Synth which turns it into a playable game. There are already a handful fo designers making games on Story Synth, which is deeply gratifying!
I’ve loved making the platform and there are so many directions that I’m excited to take it in – new formats, extensions, and more. I imagine I’ll be continue building Story Synth for a long time to come.
In December I published a new game through Story Synth called Around the Realm. In it, you’ll tell the story of two close companions racing around a fantasy world to win a wager. It’s lighthearted, fast paced, and inspired by Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. Let me know if you get to play it!
2020 was horrible for so many people and yet we were extremely fortunate to have a healthy, happy, and productive year. We’re deeply grateful for all the luck we’ve had and are hoping it holds up in the new year.
We haven’t done too much planning for 2021, given the massive uncertainty, but we’re sure it will be full of creative projects, hikes, and digital catch-ups with friends and family.
On that note – please reach out! We haven’t been great about proactively scheduling calls but we always get excited when old friends reach out to chat. Shoot us an email and we’ll get something on the calendar.With just a few hours left in 2020, here’s a final update on our year. I’ll mostly focus on the last few months as I wrote a Mid-2020 Update in September.
I lucked out and grabbed one of these weird leather yo-yos from https://leatheryoyoshop-fe.stores.jp/ The whole yo-yo (and the matching counterweight) is made from leather.
They currently aren’t shipping to the US, but that will change when this pandemic is more under control.
This yo-yo is the “Depth 5” in a natural colorway. I’m using a LCW Nuts in a matching color too. The yo-yo is cool, but I really think the leather counterweights are some of the best goodies on the site. I like the LCW Nuts the best, but the square counterweight with the eye is pretty unique too.